Xinhua Asia-Pacific news summary at 1600 GMT, March 2

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PHNOM PENH -- Ministers or representatives from the 16 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) participating countries on Saturday reiterated their commitment to conclude negotiations on the RCEP trade pact by the end of this year, said a joint statement.

"The ministers recalled the Leaders' determination to conclude a modern, comprehensive, high quality, and mutually beneficial RCEP in 2019, and resolved to exert utmost effort to achieve this target," said the statement released after the 7th RCEP Intersessional Ministerial Meeting (7th RCEP ISSL MM) in Cambodia's Siem Reap province. (Cambodia-RCEP)

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KABUL -- Both the Afghan security forces and the Taliban outfit have intensified attacks against each other as scores have been reported killed in showdowns over the past two days in Afghanistan.

Taliban militants, in an offensive against an army base in the southern Helmand province on Friday which lasted for several hours, killed more than 20 security personnel and injured over a dozen others, defense ministry has confirmed. (Afghanistan-Taliban-Military Operation)

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JAKARTA -- The death toll from collapse of an illegal gold mine in central Indonesia has reached nine as unstable soil condition vulnerable to another mine slide hampered efforts to rescue the trapped miners, a disaster agency official said on Saturday.

Over 60 miners were working underground on Tuesday when the incident hit the unlicensed mine in Bakan village of Bolaang Mongondow district in North Sulawesi province, according to the National Disaster Management Agency. (Indonesia-Mine Collapse)

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SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir/ISLAMABAD -- Three civilians were killed while three others wounded in cross-border shelling between Indian and Pakistani troops on Line of Control (LoC) dividing the disputed Kashmir region, Indian police said Saturday.

The skirmish broke out Friday evening and continued for several hours in frontier Poonch district, about 180 km southwest of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, according to a senior police official posted in Poonch. (India-Pakistan-Skirmish)

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CANBERRA -- Australia's two top Defence Ministers have announced their retirement from politics with fewer than 90 days before the general election.

Christopher Pyne, Australia's Minister for Defence, and Steven Ciobo, the Minister for Defence Industries, on Saturday announced they would not contest May's election, with the latter stepping down as a minister immediately. (Australia-Election-Retirement) Enditem

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